Our club offers a pasta night once a week. It's a really cool concept. Two times now I have done my own Pasta Night at home ~ once on account of having leftover Rigatoni and last night intentionally using a really good Italian Gluten Free Penne.
In the even years, my family holds a week long family get-together at Thanksgiving with about 28-30 of us all eating meals together. We change up some of the dinners from year to year. Based on the the head count as it builds each day prior to Thanksgiving Day, we decide which dinners are for a smaller group vs the full group.
This meal is cool because it's cooked to order and the selections are chosen by the diner which works well when trying to accommodate various dietary restrictions. I have been trying to work this out to serve it for a large group. Having a few cooks and multiple pans will make it possible for a large group. I'm also thinking the kids eat first, then adults afterward.
It's all in the prep, then it goes together quickly and with a big group working together, that part is fun. The more ingredients you have, the more combinations you can offer.
For last night, for three of us, this is what I served. I already had the Marinara made, so that saved a step. I have a vegetable plot in our community garden and had some Broccoli and a small Red Cabbage that I picked about an hour before prepping. I also picked some Thia Basil from the community garden and I had some Fresh Parsley in my herb pots. I just bought Sugar Snap Peas and a Yellow Squash. I also had 2 links of cooked Italian Sausage from the night before that I cut into 1/2" slices. I also had a locally grown Onion that I bought last Sat at our local farmers market. So you can see where this is going with all of these fresh ingredients.
We are trying out a gluten free diet so I precooked and cooled a very good Italian Gluten Free Penne made by a company called Schar. I made Afredo Sauce and had that near by. I quickly steamed the sugar snap peas and the broccoli each for about two minutes and placed them in separate bowls. I thinly sliced the onion and the cabbage and placed them in separate bowls. I recently bought a new Mandoline and made waffle shaped slices with the Summer Squash. You can add whatever you want though, sauteed peppers, roasted eggplant, sliced zuchinni, sliced (or quartered) mushrooms, cooked bonelss chicken breast, raw shrimp, capers, pressed garlic, etc. The larger the group, the larger the offering.
I have a 12" All-Clad skillet that is perfect for this meal. Heat the pan over medium heat and add a TBL of Olive Oil. Add the ingredients that the diner requests. Sauté these together for a few minutes adding Salt and Pepper to taste. Add the pasta and toss for about 1 minute. Add Alfredo and toss for about 30 seconds til combined and hot. If the sauce thickens too quickly, have water ready and add a splash or two as needed.
For plating, in a pasta plate, add marinara to the bottom and swirl. Add the freshly cooked pasta to the plate and top with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and garnish with Italian Herbs and S&P if needed. Eat at once with a salad and hot crusty bread.
Wash the pan and utensils and begin again.
Other sauces that can be added instead of just Alfredo and Marinara are Pesto, Tepenade, a Roasted Red Pepper topping, and even a Marsala or Picatta. So with the combinations, the dishes are endless.
For a big group, set out the pasta plates and the ingredients buffet style. Allow each diner the chance to add to the bowl what they would like. Then they can bring it to the cook who can make the dish to order. NOTE: If using raw Shrimp or any raw meat, the plate has to be washed before serving. I would have raw shrimp near the cook who can add it directly to the pan and all other meats I would precook.
Another option is have everyone gather in the kitchen, allow the cooks choice on the combinations, enjoy them one by one as they are done by sharing straight out of the pan onto small plates.
Have fun and photograph all the selections as the dishes are finished.